I live above the cutest little grocery store. The man who owns it already knows me by name. Today I went in just as they were closing because it was one of those nights where I knew I had to make chocolate chip cookies. So I grabbed a bag of chocolate chips and brought it up to the register. “Hi Katrina. Doing some baking?” I don’t think my cute little grocery store owner knows how often he’s going to utter those words to me.
A lot of fuss has been created over chocolate chip cookies. They’re so pivotal, so important to the baker’s repetoire. If you move on to things like pistachio petit-fours before you master the chocolate chip cookie, that’s like learning Rachmaninov on the piano before you conquer Chopsticks. I wavered between this recipe, from Cooks Illustrated, and Alton Brown’s, eventually choosing this because I didn’t have any bread flour on hand. Alton Brown’s is up next though, because I have a soft spot for that man. He’s so wacky. I kinda wish he was my friend.
The beauty about the recipe I did choose is that it incorporates one of my favorite ingredients in baking: brown butter. I’ve already mentioned brown butter here, but it hasn’t come up in a while. Basically, I think it’s wonderful. I think it smells wonderful, and tastes wonderful, and if I could marry it, that would be something I’d have to seriously consider.
It gives off this great nutty aroma when the brown flecks start to form. Add to that some toasted walnuts and these cookies definitely don’t lack in the wonderfully nutty department (kind of like me, right kids?). Working with the melted butter was only slightly strange because the dough was warm. When I mixed in the chocolate chips, they started to perspire a bit. I don’t know if I was supposed to wait longer for the butter to cool, or if the dough is supposed to be warm, or what, but I guess everything ended up working out in the end.
Flavor and texture-wise, I am a big fan of these cookies. I kinda regret not substituting a little of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I feel like it would’ve given them a bit more substance, and I think the whole wheat flour would stand up to all that butter very nicely. As they are, however, they’re simply great. They’re the best damned Chopsticks I’ve ever played. Alton, batter up (get it? cookie batter? swish?).
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Cook’s Illustrated (I know, AGAIN), May 1, 2009
Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored.
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.